VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2009 (<a href=”http://www.zenit.org”>Zenit.org).- The director of the Vatican press office says he did not reproach the president of the Ecclesia Dei commission for the turmoil that has surrounded the lifting of excommunication of four Lefebvrite bishops.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who is a Vatican spokesman in his role as the director of the press office, clarified his comments reported Thursday by the French daily La Croix and picked up by the international press.
Some interpretations given to his interview suggested that the spokesman reproached Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of Ecclesia Dei, the commission in charge of seeking rapprochement with the Lefebvrites, for not having informed the Pope about the positions of Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson.
Bishop Williamson was seen in an interview denying the gassing of 6 million Jews at about the same time that his excommunication was lifted.
Father Lombardi told the daily El Colombiano that Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos could not possibly know what all of the Lefebvrites think, and therefore cannot be faulted for the Holy Father’s lack of information on Bishop Williamson.
The cardinal “knows the positions of the superior-general [of the society] very well,” Father Lombardi observed. “But this does not imply that he should know or take into account all the ideas and opinions of each one of the members of this community regarding diverse situations.”
“Naturally,” he added, “all the negotiations have been carried forward with the superior-general and not with the other bishops.”
In fact, the superior-general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, silenced Bishop Williamson after the interview was aired. And today, it was confirmed that the British prelate was removed as his duties as director of the society’s Argentinean seminary.
Father Lombardi also lauded the mediation work Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has done in an effort to bring the schism with the Society of St. Pius X to an end, work in which the lifting of the excommunications has been a key, albeit preliminary step.
The spokesman said: “It was not just the Pope who was not informed about the positions of [Bishop] Williamson regarding the Shoah. Bishop Williamson, let us recall, is generally in Argentina. It is understandable that Cardinal Castrillón himself would not be informed [of his position] and less so of the recent interview with Swedish television.”
In Father Lombardi’s original declarations to La Croix, he observed that the cardinal is the person who best knows the situation with the Lefebvrites.
“This,” he clarified, “does not mean that Cardinal Castrillón had to clearly know the negationist positions of [Bishop] Williamson on the Shoah.”
The Vatican spokesman affirmed, “We continue having the greatest confidence and gratitude for the difficult and complex work that the cardinal has done and is doing to reweave this very delicate relationship and to reconstruct the unity of the Church, a task that he carries out with a specific commission from the Pope.”
“With the Holy Father, Cardinal Castrillón has a relationship of total trust, because he is one of his closest collaborators,” Father Lombardi added. “This delicate issue of the regrouping of the Church above all with the traditionalist groups that have separated is a situation that the Pope has felt very deeply, because he experienced it firsthand.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was named by Pope John Paul II to negotiate with Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, seeking to avoid the illicit episcopal ordination that resulted in the bishops’ excommunication now just lifted. Those negotiations failed.